Leadership Blog Series: 5 Tips to help you thrive through ND School

Welcome to our leadership blog series! This month Jessalyn Shamess, Chapter President of Boucher Institute for Natural Medicine, discusses five tips to add to your tool bag to help you along the marathon of Naturopathic Medical School. Medical school is one of the most rigorous mental experiences and individual can pursue and even when we feel on top of our game there are underlying practices we should maintain to help keep ourselves engaged and passionate through the learning process.

5 Tips to help you thrive through ND School 

Naturopathic medical school can be one of the most fulfilling and exciting times for a student while simultaneously being challenging and exhausting.  My story is likely the same as many others. Passion and a deep belief in our medicine is what drives me, which translates into overcommitment to my many passions. Contrary to my belief when I started this program, burn out is just as big of an issue in studying naturopathic medicine as it is in studying conventional medicine. In my fourth year, I have been reflecting on what made a difference between times where I felt like I was sailing through and those times that made me feel like I was barely staying afloat. There are so many different items that could be considered in this topic, but here are 5 that stood out for me, with a little help from our therapeutic order. 

1. Lay the foundation

Trying to patch a leaky tub once the landslide of medical knowledge starts flowing in (and we all know how quickly it accumulates) is incredibly difficult. Take advantage of the time you have off between periods of intense schooling to nourish yourself in whichever way best appeals to you. Starting the school year with good habits already in place that stimulate your vis (medication, yoga, breathing, nature time, impromptu dance party) can help ensure that when the faucet is turned way up, you are ready to manage the workload. 

2. Boundaries: 

We are a profession of empathetic givers, people who constantly want to help. This may be one of the reasons why, as much as we understand our own need for vis-stimulating activities, it seems so easy to have those items get pushed aside. This could be due to friends, family, clinical prep or studying.  Boundaries are helpful in many different situations, whether it is carefully managing your time, communicating your needs, or identifying limits. It may be as simple as realizing certain times in school will be busier and letting friends/family or other commitments know that you will not be as readily available. It may be challenging, but it is healthy to acknowledge when you have too much going on and need to say no. 

For myself, this has always been a difficult lesson to learn. But I have found that the more I stick to creating boundaries , the more I accomplish in the end and avoid the feeling of being pulled in too many directions. Remove the obstacles to cure! 

3.Dismiss the idea of perfection: 

After going through intense undergraduate programs geared towards earning top grades to get into medical school, perfectionism is deeply ingrained into our academic careers. However, it is important to realize that the idea of perfectionism is inherently flawed in that it involves working towards an unattainable goal. Regardless of how hard we work, there will always be more to learn, a way to be “better”, or a way to work harder. 

Work towards accepting that whatever your best is that day is enough given the time, experience, and resources (your own mental/emotional/physical energy included) available. Truly know that  being a naturopathic doctor means that we are lifelong students, and that we will be forever continuing to learn. All we can do is continue to be open and excited about having the opportunity to learn rather than focusing on the weight of what we do not yet know. We work very hard not to make mistakes, but they are inevitable and learning from them is what is most important. This might mean taking a mark you are not happy with as an opportunity to reexamine your studying approach in order to learn the information better, as opposed to taking it as an inherent personal deficiency. We are not our failures. We can only do as much as our body and brain can give us on that day. In our future as healthcare providers we have to come to terms with realizing that it is impossible to constantly give 100%. 

4. Find a way to maintain your curiosity: 

Between the never ending quizzes, classes, and clinic requirements it becomes easy to get bogged down in the intensity of school and to forget the excitement that comes with learning about naturopathic medicine. Attending conferences, getting involved in passion projects or spending extra time with mentors actually helps to increase your capacity to deal with the intensities of school.  When they are carefully placed and considered (see point number 5), these items can reinvigorate you and get you excited to be part of the profession we love so much. 

5. Reflection: 

Much like our medicine, there is not a “one answer fits all” for how to do naturopathic medical school. This is why I think this last point is likely the most important of them all. Take time to look back and reflect on the past week or day to identify what your own needs were and check in to see whether that week or day was aligned with your goals.  This can help you identify the ingredients of your own self-care soup. 


Author: Jessalyn Shamess

Chapter President, Boucher

Jessalyn Shamess is the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine NMSA Chapter President. She is in her third year of the ND program and is also actively involved in Boucher’s Research & Admissions departments as well as previously being involved with the BNSA. She received her Bachelor of Science in both Kinesiology/Health sciences and Nutrition. She is passionate about the marriage of traditional knowledge and the evolving field of naturopathic research. When she is not studying or in class, she is likely to be chasing waves, fresh powder, or wandering the mountains.


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